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When Alpha Males Square Off

This post is also available in: German

Can you spot the alpha-iest alpha who ever alpha’ed?

A hushed crowd gathers at a safe distance round the two great white beasts… lords of their jungles… locked in a struggle predetermined by ancient custom and cosmic law. They slowly circle, gazes unwavering, searching for a flash of weakness in cold orbs of blue ice that have seen much. Stalking and circling, bodies taught under the veneer of custom suits and polite banter, prepared to spring to action. Their minds electrified with the weight of the rapprochement, jowls flaring a crimson warning. The winner will acquire mating rights to the loser’s concubines, and oh my is that a lot of concubines. The women on the losing side will wail and gnash their teeth, but only for a moment before regrouping and surrendering with barely concealed relief and joy to the carnal caretaking of the new king…

It’s just a snapshot of two human silverbacks in the wild, but these frozen totems at the pinnacle of their male power give us clues to the subtle undercurrents of intention and the restrained but fraught posturing that accompanies the spectacle of an alpha male face-off. It doesn’t happen often — super alpha males tend to give each other a wide berth in their natural habitats — so when a direct clash of caliphs does happen it’s occasion to clear the arena for a primetime show.

Both of these potentates have strong alpha male body language. You would expect nothing less than ramrod straight backs, squared shoulders and jutting chins from two men who are accustomed to ordering successful assassinations and plowing ass ten to a bed. Their faces are expressionless, void of the slightest twinkle of a smile in the eyes or mouth, and this too is expected when two high status men, trained by decades of accumulating a mountain of lessers and climbing over their prostrate souls, confront one another and must ascertain the other’s sentiment without revealing clues to their own emotional state. Wry smiles are affordable when one’s potential antagonist is a beta male; such an amiable gesture signals a vulnerability that the high status can easily indulge. But on the battlefield of equals, the crowd unsure which prince to line up behind, the smile is stashed lest the men risk an accidental tell of submission.

For a deeper analysis, we need to locate small details that evade cursory examination. Eye contact is important here. Putin is locked like a polonium-tipped bullet on DiCaprio’s eyes. His stare communicates, if a communique can be discerned, that he is alternately bored by this dog and pony show and pleased with the passing thought that he could… radically alter… Leo’s life trajectory with a word.

DiCaprio’s eyes, unfortunately, are obscured by the camera angle, so we can’t know if he’s meeting Putin’s pupils or looking askance as Putin sizes him up. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say the former.

Super Alpha Male Score (SAMS) so far: Putin 1, DiCaprio 1.

Putin is not a tall man. Yet in every photo of him, he appears capable of adeptly adjusting his posture and gaze in the company of taller men. The proof of this is that you hardly ever see a picture of Putin and immediately think “Damn, he’s a short man.” He leaves a taller impression on the viewer. DiCaprio has natural gravitas due to his relative height, an advantage which Putin must neutralize. And he does, with a jaunty cock of the head and careful refusal to raise his chin too high to accommodate DiCaprio’s elevated presence. For this impressive feat, we must award Putin.

SAMS: Putin 2, DiCaprio 1.

Sadly, as the CH giveth, the CH taketh away. Note Putin’s drink; he’s holding that snifter too high up his torso, a classic  habit of defensiveness. Keep that drink by your waist, Comrade!

SAMS: Putin 2, DiCaprio 2.

Putin’s face seems more relaxed, but his carriage more tense. DiCaprio appears a little more relaxed throughout the shoulders and upper back. Leo’s brow is more knitted, though, which gives him the look of a man who is trying too hard to appear tough, or who is struggling with constipation. This one’s a wash.

SAMS: Putin 2, DiCaprio 2.

Now what? When direct comparison is limited, we turn to the adoring gaze of the crowd. The alpha male is as much a creation of the perceptions of the people who eagerly draft in his wake as he is a locus of his own alphaness. This crowd is fixed on DiCaprio. Putin may as well be another gawker.

If we stop here, and it would be reasonable to do so, the winner of the Super Alpha Male Square Off can be declared.

SAMS: Putin 2, DiCaprio 3.

Not much more to say, you say? Hold on, CH judges are privy to documents and dossiers that alter the complexion of the proceedings. We are fairly certain that DiCaprio has never slyly called out the ethnic composition of the first Soviet government and trolled the entirety of the Western world’s media.

SAMS: Putin: Irrepressible chutzpah, DiCaprio: Fancyboy.

Vlad, your trophy has been delivered to your country estate.

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